Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air: Legends
of West Texas Music
"Indeed, Oglesby's introduction of more
than two dozen musicians who called Lubbock home should be required
reading not only for music fans, but for Lubbock residents and
anyone thinking about moving here. On these pages, music becomes
a part of Lubbock's living history."
Chris Oglesby Interviews
Chris: Andy, the first time we met was at the party in Lubbock celebrating the first anniversary of my book, Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air: Legends of West Texas Music. You are twenty-two years old, so you were a fresh face there representing young Lubbock, the next generation of great musicians. I'm glad to have this opportunity to get to know you better. First of all, tell me about your roots in Lubbock.
Andy: I was born and raised in Lubbock. My dad is a
preacher and my mom is also in the ministry. My mom was born
in Spokane, Washington, but my dad grew up in Lubbock and went
to college here at Tech. His brother is Jim Eppler, who is a pretty popular artist
here in West Texas and now all over the country.
Chris: Now, you say you've been playing in bars for five or six years You are only twenty-two years old.
Andy: Yeah, I started playing in bars when I was eighteen,
and I started playing in coffee shops when I was sixteen. So
when I was younger, I had the pleasure of having to sneak into
my own gigs; that was just a real delight, to have the fear of
being kicked out of your own gig and blackballed around town.
But I couldn't play the songs I wanted to play in coffee shops.
However, the way I dealt with the problem is that the instant
I graduated from high school, I grew a beard by the next week.
My family really has a handle on the trait for growing facial
hair. I don't remember ever getting carded after that. Usually,
they never even asked me how old I was when I booked the gig,
because I looked twenty-four or so with the beard. One time,
another guy who was opening for me and was the same age I was,
he got carded and kicked out. He was good enough not to rat me
out. I didn't take advantage by drinking because I wanted to
have a good name around town. I wanted to be able to make two
hundred dollars a night instead of just playing for tips in a
Chris: What are the venues there in Lubbock which have been friendly to you?
Andy: Shooterz is not really typical of the type of places I usually play at but it is run really well and the people who work there are nice and cool. They've never screwed me over or taken advantage of me. On the rare occasion when something does happen, they always make it up to me. Another place is La Diosa, they've never done me wrong. But there are a couple of places in town where I absolutely will not play, and I am finally getting to the place where I can choose. If a place isn't run to where I can trust the management without making them sign a contract, then I won't play there. Fortunately, I do not play at places where I don't want to play, any more. But I wouldn't be where I am now if I hadn't started playing in bars when I was eighteen.
Chris: So you're telling me about working with the management at the venue as opposed to the clientele at the venues; that's a pretty mature position to take. Have any venues been good to you as far as building a fan base?
Andy: The only place where I have developed a real
fan base is at a coffee shop called Sugar Brown's, and its all high school kids,
like fourteen and fifteen years old. We have such a music culture
in Lubbock, and a lot of the kids who really look up to musicians
latched on to me and show up to every gig and pack the place.
But that is the only place where I can really draw a crowd in
Chris: Why are you doing so well in these other places? What have you done differently there?
Andy: I have no idea. I guess it's just a different
mentality. Maybe they are more appreciative of the arts. When
people go out in Taos, they are going to see art or listen to
original music. Here in Lubbock, they just want to drink beer
and listen to cover songs. That's fine because it can be fun.
But my real problem in Lubbock is that I have yet to really find
where I fit.
Chris: I will make the point to you that, if you talk to Joe Ely about that, or to any of the other musicians from that generation, you will find that he was feeling exactly the same way you are. Tommy Hancock was a working musicians but it was because he was the house band at the Cotton Club, which was the biggest venue in town. So Tommy and his band were about the only working musicians in town. Several people who played with Tommy's band were not working musicians, including Buddy Holly's brothers Larry and Travis, and the Maines family; I'm talking about Lloyd's daddy and uncles. They weren't professional musicians; they all had day jobs and played music on the side. Joe Ely had some good gigs at Main Street Saloon and Fat Dawg's, but that's not where he made it big. Where Joe made it was England, touring Europe. Only after he got famous like that was he very popular in Lubbock.
Andy: I am in the situation where I don't feel I can get a record contract, because I can't afford to sell all my songs to a record company, because the record companies are all fixing to go out of business. I can't use the record company to take me on tour in Europe to prove that I am something. I have to get over there on my own. And I honestly haven't figured out how to effectively do that.
Chris: It does seem to me, though, that it's a good time to be where you are. For instance, you were able to record your new album pretty much all in your home, produced and designed the whole thing there in Lubbock, and that is a high quality piece of work. Joe Ely would not have had the ability to that back in his day. Tell me about making that record.
Andy: The title
of the CD is "There Is No Underground," and
that is really a commentary on the fact that what we used to
call the Underground Music Scene is really the music scene now.
The stuff we all hear coming from the major record labels is
such garbage these days, the only really enlightening and creative
art is coming from independent artists who didn't sell their
balls to the record company.
Chris: When you say "play it live," I assume you mean playing it locally there in Lubbock?
Andy: Yeah. And it's a funny thing because the song
is about being a musician in Lubbock and how horrible it can
be. At the same time, it can be really fun and great when you
get a good crowd but, man, most of the time it really hammers
you. That is what the song is about. But because it has the words
"Lubbock, Texas" in it, every time I play it the crowd
Chris: If you could make a living distributing your music outside of Lubbock and still live there with your family, that could a nice situation for you. Cary Swinney has a good balance doing that; he barely markets his music there locally.
Andy: That is a strange deal. I have been talking to Cary about all this, and I still can't figure out how he's gotten to where he is either.
Chris: Part of it may be the quality of what he's doing. Cary has a definite style, and I think a lot of people connect with what he's putting out there. And I do think people are connecting with what you are doing, too. I am impressed that you are doing a lot of the work yourself. You have a good attitude for success.
Andy: I am multi-faceted, as far as marketing. I do
a lot of my own promotional stunts. For my CD release, I had
open for me, and Junior Vasquez opened, Andy
Wilkinson opened, and Doctor Scoob, and Kent Mings, they all opened for me. We
had a songwriter showcase and then I played.
Chris: I do want to encourage you to not feel as if you are alone. All those great musicians before you felt the same way. Nobody in Lubbock wanted to listen to Buddy Holly when he lived there. Natalie Maines never had any independent success in Lubbock. Most of the people I know who knew Natalie Maines before she was in the Dixie Chicks just remember her as Lloyd's daughter who worked at Orlando's Italian food and sang background vocals for the Groobees. That turned out good for Susan Gibson though. Lesson there is: Keep writing good songs and let anyone who wants to record them do so.
Andy: I will let you know when there's a line. I would love it if people would offer to pay me money for not doing anything. Oh, you want to cut me a quarterly check so you can go around and do all the work? Yeah, that sounds okay to me. But nobody has really offered. And I don't think my songs are that universal. I do have a few that I think might be, but I don't think just anybody could play them. I don't think just anybody could pull off singing "C# Minor" which is the first song on the record. I don't think that is so universal to where just anybody could sing it. And my song "Bad Man," I think it takes a certain kind of asshole to play that kind of stuff, and I am that kind of asshole.
Chris: What is your relationship with other musicians there in Lubbock? Is it a vibe where it's just you and a few other guys hold up in the house playing together, wondering what the hell everybody else is doing, while maybe there are a hundred other houses where the exact same thing is occurring?
Andy: Honestly, in west Texas almost everybody plays
guitar, so that's not hard to find. I had a couple different
drummers I knew play and I even played some drums on the record.
I only have three tracks where there are other musicians playing,
all the other tracks, I played everything. People like Michael
Vasquez, who is Junior Vasquez' son and a pretty good bass player,
and Brian Tate played on it, some really great players. I did
it right; I went to Scott Faris' studio here in town and asked
him to record some drum tracks for me. Scott does design and
art and has a sound recording studio called Amusement Park Studios.
He also has worked out at South Plains College teaching classes
in the commercial music program. We worked out a cash-list barter
deal, where I did some things for him. Scott Faris did all the
design, too. He gave me a pretty friendly fee. After the whole
project was done, I had about a thousand copies in my house and
had spent a total of about two thousand dollars.
Chris: Why do you say it is a blessing and a curse to be able to make your own record? What is the curse and what is the blessing?
Andy: The blessing is that you can make a record for not a bunch of money and sell it for fifteen bucks a pop, and actually make money by selling a record. Go figure, that used to be unheard of, to make money from record sales. Since any computer you buy now comes with some kind of recording software, all you have to do is buy a couple of mikes and learn to play guitar and you can put out a record. That's also the curse, however, because when people see you have a record they think, "Whatever. I could make a record." It really comes down to quality. But we've been so indoctrinated by this pop music machine that nobody knows what quality is any more. It is getting so bad that I wish it was the '90s. The '90s were so much better than what we've got going on the radio now.
Chris: I agree, and the 90's were much more exciting than the 80's when I was in high school and college.
Andy: That's because there was a lot of good music in the 70's, and then the 80s were shit, the 90's were good, now it's shit, and by 2010 I think they are going to be ready to listen to Andy Eppler, if I haven't killed myself. [Laughs]
Chris: You are so young, Andy Eppler.
Andy: I know, and that is about the only thing I got going for me. I have worked so hard at promoting myself, meeting the right people, and maintaining those relationships. My good friend Doug Haines, who goes by Doctor Scoob, recently moved to Austin. I still keep in touch with him because I think Lubbock musicians have to keep in touch so we can help each other. I try to mention Doctor Scoob in any interviews that I do because he was a huge influence on me. He was to me, probably what Tommy Hancock was to a bunch of those older guys; I know Tommy Hancock mentored Buddy Holly to a certain extent. Doug was that way for me. I was nineteen when I met him; we met because we had the same booking agent, who screwed us, along with Scott Faris and a couple of other guys in town. So, all the guys who that guy screwed, we all became really good friends. I am great friends with Scott Faris and Doctor Scoob now, so probably the best thing that has happened to me for my career was getting screwed by that booking agent. Because Scoob hooked me in to booking real gigs, not just opening for some band that nobody's ever heard of; he probably saved my career, as far as that goes.
Chris: So you do all your own booking and promoting now?
Andy: Oh yeah. I can't afford to pay anybody.
Chris: Doctor Scoob played at the Lubbock Music Night which Jeff Kehoe and I had here in Austin a few weeks ago. I really enjoyed meeting and hanging out with him and his friend Fletcher who played mandolin and was kick-ass. That night, Scoob told me that he considers you to be a younger, better looking, more talented version of himself.
Andy: [Laughs] That is probably pretty accurate. So
Doug has made the move to Austin. There is a huge difference
between the two towns, for sure; however, I have been even close
to Austin only one time. My next move is to get on XM Satellite
radio and then start trying to infiltrate Austin, Houston, and
Chris: You are a marketing genius, trying to attach yourself to the Maines family.
Andy: Yeah, it would be cool publicity for them and really good for me.
Chris: Have you ever met Natalie Maines?
Andy: No. But I am good friends with Kenny and I have
a few times. I even sent Lloyd my record, and I am sure it is
in a very fancy trash bin right now. No, Lloyd is a good guy.
I haven't heard back from him but it hasn't been that long ago
and I haven't really been on his ass about getting back to me.
I gave one to Joe Ely, too. I haven't heard back from him either,
but his wife did
say she likes it.
Chris: What has been your uncle's response to what you are doing?
Andy: He's just proud. He has always had faith in me.
My whole family has been behind me in this process, and I think
maybe a little bit surprised that I can make a living at it.
I don't have another job. My wife and I do this only. We live
below our income so we have a little extra on hand, trying to
be responsible about it. But I really don't want to go back and
dig ditches again. I put in sprinkler systems for parks and that
is just about the most miserable job
Chris: You are good at it and obviously you have the spirit for it.
Andy: I appreciate that. Coming from you, that's a pretty big compliment. I am just stoked to be getting interviewed by the guy who wrote the book on Lubbock music, you know?
Chris: It's nice doing a fresh interview with new young
talent. When you read my book, you see that most everybody has
had the same troubles you have. I was listening to a Delaney
& Bonnie record earlier today, with Bobby Keys playing along with Leon Russell
and Eric Clapton. Keys told me the same stories as you, about
having to wait in the kitchen of the place he's playing because
he was not old enough to go into the venue with the band.
Andy: Thanks. Whenever
people ask me how long I've been playing the guitar, I always
say, "Long enough to be better than I am." Playing
guitar is not really my thing; songwriting is my thing. But you
can't just write lyrics any more, just write poetry. People want
to hear the music that goes with it.
Chris: We are about to run out of time, so is there anything else you would like to say about being a musician in Lubbock?
Andy: I think that if you have any questions about what I think about being in Lubbock and all its pros and cons, listen to my CD and it will answer every question you have. As far as a definitive quote, I just think Lubbock needs to love its musicians as much as I think the musicians love Lubbock.
[see video of Andy at the Lubbock All-Stars Reunion]
2007 Chris Oglesby
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